“Ask the Art Prof” on Facebook Live on Thursday, April 7 at 9:30pm EST

clara3

Many of you have probably noticed that my “Ask the Art Prof” advice column for visual artists on the Huffington Post has been on hiatus since last August.   Last September, an enormous project kicked into high gear that has been consuming all of my time since then.

A few weeks back, I actually had some spare time for a change, and I started writing a new column.  I have to admit that I felt bored.  The writing process felt tedious, slow, and limited. This had never happened before when I was writing a column.  Previously, the words always seemed to spill effortlessly on the page, and I really enjoyed the process of gradually organizing and editing my thoughts into a coherent form.  I didn’t want to, but I abandoned the new column after about an hour of frustration.

I started wondering whether my advice column needed a change, perhaps a new format or direction. After all, I’ve been writing “Ask the Art Prof” for 3 years now, and I’ve written over 120 columns at this point. So I think it was synchronicity that I started reading about Facebook Live in the news at the same time that I was re-evaluating the format of my advice column. On top of that, I noticed in my Twitter feed that New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas Kristof has started doing Facebook Live posts recently on his Facebook page. Just thinking about all the possibilities with this new format got me excited.

I’d like to invite you to join me for “Ask the Art Prof” on Facebook Live on my Facebook page on Thursday, April 7 at 9:30pm EST (Eastern Standard Time) Like my Facebook page and you’ll receive a notification when my live video begins.

This live video will be similar to my advice column, in that you’ll get to ask me anything you want that’s related to being a visual artist: the creative process, art school, career advice, art techniques, teaching art, how to be a working artist today, and much more.

Show up for the live video and ask me questions by commenting on the post while I’m live, and I’ll answer right then and there.

See you then!

Final Crit

ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

Advertisements

Video Critiques for Aspiring and Professional Artists

RISD Section 19

Due to popular demand, I am now expanding my video critique program to include video critiques for aspiring and professional artists, in addition to video critiques for students preparing a portfolio for college admission.

Many artists of all ages and levels of experience have emailed to me over the past few months asking for me to critique their artwork. The people who have emailed me have said that they have no one who they can ask for feedback on their artwork, so I am pleased to be able to provide a solution for this need.

Each video critique is 30 minutes long, covers 8-20 artworks, and costs $60 USD. Get more information here, and you can watch a sample video critique of a student’s portfolio for college admission below.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

“Ask for What You Want”

Self-initiative is everything when you’re a visual artist. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past decade of teaching and making art, it’s that opportunities in visual arts almost never fall into your lap.  Unless you are independently wealthy, extremely well connected, or insanely lucky, you have to take the responsibility to go out there and find and/or create opportunities for yourself.

26pausch.650

Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006, is famous for his “Last Lecture” which he gave back in 2008.  In the lecture, he talks about “really achieving your childhood dreams.”  One of my favorite pieces of advice that he gives is to “ask for what you want.” It sounds like a statement that should be obvious, but I was surprised that when I sat down to really think about it at the time, how infrequently I actually asked for what I wanted.

There are two actions to that piece of advice:  1) identifying what you want and then 2) asking for it. Depending on what you want to do, figuring out what it is you want can be totally obvious or completely mysterious. For me, knowing what I want hasn’t been challenging, it’s the asking part that can so difficult to do.

Recently, I’ve had to do a massive amount of asking, way more than usual. Every time I ask for something, whether it’s a grant proposal I’m putting together, an exhibition opportunity, or a job, I feel like I’m walking a plank on a pirate ship.  Most of the time, I start with an email inquiry, and I have to take a deep breath before I click “send.”It’s hard to ask for things. In most situations, you’re asking someone you barely know, or don’t know at all.

Asking can be exhausting, and you have to prepare yourself to be rejected over and over again, with the high likelihood that you won’t get a response. It can get to the point where you become grateful for any response, even if it’s a no. This process can be very frustrating; it can feel demeaning when you’re constantly begging on your hands and knees all the time for even the slightest bit of acknowledgement.

I don’t know why asking is so intimidating for me despite the fact that I have evidence that asking can be effective. I try to remind myself that asking is no skin off my back. After all, the worst case scenario is either being ignored or rejected, which is nothing new.

I try to remember that you only need one person to say “yes” for all of that asking to be worth it. Even though the asking can be painful, I know that it’s possible to get results this way. I’ve landed jobs and exhibitions because I asked, asked the next year, and then the next year, until that polite rejection became a “yes.”


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

The Right Words at the Right time

Accordion Bookbinding Project

One of my students at RISD once wrote on their self-critique, “Art is hard.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself. When you work professionally as an artist, there are the artistic challenges of creating the artwork, but on top of that, you have to build a very thick skin to handle the constant bombardment of rejection, and be incredibly tenacious despite difficult circumstances.  From my point of view, creating the artwork is the “easy” part of being a visual artist.

For me, the greatest struggle is when my confidence in my work wavers. Some days, I feel empowered and confident, my artistic vision is crystal clear, and my work ethic and energy is boundless. Other days, I feel overwhelmed, terribly discouraged, and have no faith in myself. You would think after almost two decades, I would have figured out a permanent solution, but I don’t think that one exists.

Last week I had one of those moments,  I know that fundamentally, I am extremely passionate about my work but it’s very nerve wracking to put in so much commitment and labor into something that might go nowhere.  I knew that I had to find a way to maintain my enthusiasm and optimism.

I wrote to one of my friends, Gina Perry, who is a children’s book illustrator and expressed my fears and anxieties to her.  She said that my situation sounded very similar to children’s book publishing, where you have no choice but to pour in hundreds of hours of unpaid work before you see a contract.  Her words to me were:  “You don’t achieve big things without that type of investment and risk.”

download (1)
Illustration by Gina Perry

Her words really resonated in that moment, especially because I know that she has years of experience, deep in the trenches, dealing with rejection, chasing her artistic goals.  Now I have a sticky note on my desktop with her words. When I feel my confidence sinking, that sticky note lifts me up.

Clipboard01

Visual artists have to learn to live with uncertainty and still be willing to take intimidating risks despite the lack of guarantees.  As a reaction to this, I frequently crave any moment in my life where something is guaranteed.  I love baking because I know that if I buy the required ingredients, follow the recipe exactly as written, that in the end, I’ll definitely have muffins to eat.  Unless the recipe is bad, or I make some really stupid mistake, those muffins are guaranteed. Sometimes being a visual artist is like doing all of those tasks, but then every time you open the oven, all you find is a pile of ashes. Gina got me back on track last week, and I’m hoping that sometime in the near future, there will be muffins when I open my oven.


Subscribe to my email list! I send announcements only a few times a year.

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation From Your Professor

Gesture Drawing

College admissions season has already started with early decision application deadlines coming up next month.  I’m already getting my first flood of requests for letters of recommendation from students.  On average, I write about 20 letters of recommendation a year. That may not sound like that many letters to write, but I devote a lot of time to each letter so that I can best articulate each student’s unique strengths to support their application. I can imagine from the Admissions office perspective,  many letters of recommendation probably all start to sound the same after a while, so I work hard to make my letters distinctive.

Because I get so many requests, I require my students to follow specific guidelines in order to get a letter from me. I’m sure each professor has their own requirements, so check with each of your professors and see what they require. Here are my policies:

1) Achieve a certain grade or higher in my course.
When I write a letter of recommendation, I have to feel that I can enthusiastically rant and rave about how incredible the student is, in terms of both their character and academic accomplishments. I won’t say here exactly which grade is the cut off point, but it’s pretty high up there.

2) Ask politely and don’t make assumptions. 
You might think this is obvious, but you’d be surprised how many students are not polite when asking for a letter. It’s important to know what’s good practice when asking, because this is definitely a process you’ll have to do repeatedly throughout your career.

I’ve had students email me, stating that they listed me as a reference on a job application without ever asking my permission. That alone is presumptuous enough that I will tell the student to remove me from their reference list. One student asked for a letter and in the same email, told me that they had already sent the school my email and that I should be expecting an email where I could upload my letter. I had a student who asked me to write them a letter for a grant application that didn’t exist yet, and then continued to pester me about it even after I said no twice. It got to the point where I had to tell them, point blank, that I wouldn’t write letters for them in the future. Ask politely, and wait to hear my response before you do anything.

3) Provide 2-3 months advance notice of your earliest deadline. Even if the student got an A in my course, if they ask 2 weeks before their deadline, I won’t write the letter. My schedule is so densely packed that I simply can’t take on last minute requests. I am sure that this is also the case for all other professors.

4) Correspond with me promptly throughout the process.
Asking for a letter is just the beginning of a mutual effort between myself and the student. Don’t disappear after I’ve agreed to write the letter, you have to be involved every step of the way. There are so many little details that have to be followed up on, and when students don’t provide information I need promptly it makes everything unnecessarily complicated.

5) Say thank you. 
This is a mandatory habit to establish for the future. I’m appalled at how few people do this, especially when it’s so easy to do, and takes so little time.  I’ve had several instances where students emailed me asking for help with something, I took the time to write them a lengthy email with advice, and then never heard from them again. I guess they got what they needed from me, but I find it rude to not even reply with a quick “thank you.”  It bothers me enough that I have a list in my head of who didn’t say “thank you.” Sometimes that’s the difference between whether I recommend someone for a job or not. A few weeks ago, I got an email from a lawyer I had never met in person before, thanking me for referring one of my students to them.  That email made a difference; that lawyer is now cemented in my head as someone who is polite and professional.

Gesture Painting

Writing letters of recommendation are part and parcel of being a teacher, and I am always happy to help my students however I can. Plus, when you have phenomenal students, the letters practically write themselves. If you’re a student, be prepared to put in effort on your end, I can guarantee that your professors will appreciate it!


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

My Poisonous Checklist

John Waters speaking at this year’s RISD commencement

Since it’s graduation season, there are tons of commencement speech videos circulating right now. My perspective may be cynical and unpopular, but I will admit that I find most commencement speeches irritating because most speeches tell you that the world is your oyster, and that you can do anything!  Frequently, the speeches offer a bullet list of things to do in order to achieve success. What most speeches don’t mention is that things will probably go nowhere before they go somewhere.

What I’d like to talk about today is what to do when you’ve been consistently doing everything on those bullet lists for years, but nothing is happening. I would estimate that artists are more likely to experience this circumstance than phenomenal success.  The truth is that the vast majority of people will not be the top superstars in their field, most of us will not win the Turner prize or a Guggenheim grant.

clara_yupin

At my MFA graduation in 2004 (I’m on the right)

When I was a graduate student, it was easy to imagine and aspire for the most prestigious professional achievements in my field.  After completing my MFA,  I felt ready to take a serious plunge into the professional art world. Everything seemed possible simply because I hadn’t experienced anything yet. At that time, I made a checklist of long term goals that was very specific:

1.  Win a top artist grant.

2.  Be represented by a respected New York City art gallery.

3.  Get my artwork into major museum collections across the nation.

4.  Become a tenured professor.

It’s been 11 years since I received my MFA, and I have yet to check off a single item on that list. I’m know that 11 years is a drop in the water compared to some other people, but it’s long enough that I don’t feel like I graduated yesterday. In retrospect, it seems like I must have been egotistical and naive to have thought at one point that one, even several of the items on my checklist could be in my future.  I’m not deluded enough to think that I would just wake up one morning to a call from the MacArthur Foundation. I was well aware early on what I had signed up for by choosing to be a professional artist, and certainly, I’ve made some personal choices that determined where my career could go.

Still, it’s tough to have toiled this hard for this long, and not feel disappointed. With every year that passes, I watch the ship sail further away. At this point, becoming an internationally renowned fine artist is just not in the cards for me. Looking at what I’ve done so far, I know that I will never have a solo retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and that I won’t be representing the United States in the next Venice Biennale.

Whitney Biennial Exhibition

Over the past few years, I watched my checklist transform from a positive source of inspiration into a toxic distraction. Obsessing over this checklist became extremely unhealthy; I used to torture myself by reading articles about artists who had achieved meteoric success in their 20’s.  I became very resentful and making art wasn’t fun anymore.  What was supposed to be one of my greatest joys in life had mutated into something that just made me miserable.  If you’ve ever experienced this, you’ll understand what a truly frightening place this is to be.

Below is an excerpt from a column by New York Times columnist David Brooks titled “The Small, Happy Life.

“Elizabeth Young once heard the story of a man who was asked by a journalist to show his most precious possession. The man, Young wrote, ‘was proud and excited to show the journalist the gift he had been bequeathed. A banged up tin pot he kept carefully wrapped in cloth as though it was fragile. The journalist was confused, what made this dingy old pot so valuable? ‘The message,’ the friend replied. The message was ‘we do not all have to shine.’ This story resonated deeply. In that moment I was able to relieve myself of the need to do something important, from which I would reap praise and be rewarded with fulfillment. My vision cleared.'”

That checklist wasn’t my own; it was a very narrow minded idea of success formulated by other people that I let myself succumb to.  Reading this column reconfirmed that I don’t need to fulfill those items on my checklist to be creatively satisfied.

I’ve moved the aspirations on my old checklist to the back burner. The goals are still simmering quietly, but they are no longer front and center in my mind. Oddly enough, letting myself not care has been remarkably effective, and this is the first time in a while that I have been able to think clearly. This week, I’m going to start writing a new checklist.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related Articles
Keep Looking For Your Dreams
Face Yourself: How I Defeated Self-Censorship

Ask the Art Prof: Is the Internet Necessary to be a Successful Visual Artist?

2007 Ink Wipe Roll Print AIB Faculty Exhibition

“I’ve been working in a small gallery that’s all about social media and using it to promote their gallery and artists. I, on the other hand, choose to have a very minimal online presence. I only recently got a Linkedin account, but I don’t have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

I dislike the idea that anyone can have access into my work and my life. As an artist living in the 21st century, is my reluctance towards using technology and social media hurting my art career? Has the Internet become a necessary tool in becoming successful?”

Think about it this way: if you don’t use the Internet to promote your art, what would you use? Print media? Print media is so achingly slow and expensive. On top of that, I don’t have any evidence that print media is any more effective than emailing an announcement. If anything, I’m convinced that people are much more likely to hang onto your information if they receive it digitally.

I don’t even bother with hard copy postcard mailings anymore because of the high cost of postage and printing. The only time I use print media now is when I make an exhibition catalog, which only happens every two or three years because printing is so expensive. I snail-mail hard copies of the exhibition catalog to select curators and art dealers whom I want to show my artwork. Compared to print media, the Internet is so much faster, convenient, and mostly free. When you’re at the very beginning of your career and you don’t have significant financial resources, these factors are huge.

I can understand your reluctance to put yourself online. Many artists worry that by promoting themselves online, their artwork will be cheapened in the process. This can be true, and I’ve seen artists promote themselves online in a manner that is embarrassing and even detrimental to their career. I once visited a website that had gigantic icons for all of the artist’s many social networks on every single webpage. I was so distracted by the “share” icons that I couldn’t see their artwork clearly. Just last week I saw an artist website that was visually crammed. Nearly every page had cheesy quotes of praise, links to three different ways to buy their artwork, links telling people to be on their email list, as well as one of the tackiest biographies I’ve read in a while. Their artwork seemed like an afterthought in the context of all the clutter on the website.

At the very least, you absolutely must have a website for your artwork. If you can afford it, it’s worth it to hire a professional to design your website to be sure that the presentation is both tasteful and user-friendly. If you can’t, there are many low cost or free options you can find online for building a website.

Your website can be very simple, but you must have the core basics: curriculum vitae, biography, contact information, and your artwork. To ensure a professional look, write a narrative biography that is purely factual without any superfluous embellishments. If you accompany your artwork with text, make sure that the text is visually understated. What you choose not to share is just as important for maintaining a clean, professional presentation. On my blog, I have rules that I set for myself: I don’t whine, I never post anything about my family, and I only post photographs of myself in professional contexts.

Without a website, I can guarantee that you will miss out on crucial professional opportunities. Essentially every professional interaction I’ve had in my career has, at some point, involved someone looking at my website. I was once interviewing someone to teach a workshop, so I asked to see their artwork. The artist told me they didn’t have a website, and asked if they could just email me images. This was not only inconvenient to me, because my inbox was then flooded with images, but also did not make a positive first impression. When I was a gallery director, I was frequently looking up artists online. If I discovered that an artist didn’t have a website, my professional opinion of them immediately dropped.

For me, of all of the social media outlets, Facebook has been the most effective so far. While I am also on Twitter and other sites, I have many more followers on my Facebook page. I know a lot of people hate Facebook, but it’s hard to ignore how effective it is in terms of reaching a lot of people very quickly. Many of my colleagues now use Facebook instead of a traditional email list for announcements. With Facebook, there’s no hassle of updating everyone’s email address all the time, and many people are more likely to see the information on Facebook first. You can choose to limit your Facebook interactions to being purely professional, and not post anything remotely personal. Another option is to set your privacy settings so that any personal content you post is only viewable by your personal friends.

Ultimately, you are in control of creating an online presence for yourself. You can strictly regulate what kind of information you put online, keep your presentation professional, and only share what you’re comfortable with. In this way you can stay current but also maintain your artistic integrity.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related articles
“How do you know when your artwork is good enough to show to the world?”
“How do you get people to notice your artwork online?”
“When is it too early to start promoting your work on the Internet?”
“How do you retain the integrity of your artwork while promoting it?”
“How do you get to the top of the art world?”
“How can I get into art exhibitions?”